Wineka column: Businesses, community answer veteran’s despair over slashed tires

  • Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 1:31 a.m.
Mark Wineka/Salisbury Post    Gary Webb stands next to his Mazda truck.
Mark Wineka/Salisbury Post Gary Webb stands next to his Mazda truck.

SPENCER — For now, I’m filing this under “Happy Ending.”

Gary Webb’s pickup has four new tires, a new starter and one appreciative owner, thanks to the kindness of strangers.


The folks at Discount Tire and ABC Towing combined to help Webb, a 55-year-old Army veteran and nine-year survivor of throat cancer. So many others offered their assistance, too, that Webb couldn’t believe it.

“I just don’t know what to say,” he said Wednesday afternoon from the one-room cottage he rents at Melba Court.

You might remember Webb as the down-on-his-luck veteran who woke up Sunday morning, walked out his front door and quickly realized the four tires on his Mazda pickup had been slashed.

Living on $710 a month in disability, Webb had just bought the Mazda B2000 pickup in late August for $2,000. He planned on renewing his driver’s license and relying on the truck to get him to places such as the grocery store and his appointments at the Hefner VA Medical Center.

Before his tires were slashed, Webb also learned his truck needed a new starter.

I wrote about Webb’s misfortune in Tuesday’s edition. I also took Tuesday off, not realizing what the reaction to Webb’s story would be.

The blinking red light on my telephone was going crazy Wednesday morning. My email inbox was bulging.

“Please call us,” Andy and Dee Stefanick said. “We would like to talk to you about helping out.”

Gary Earnhardt at RDH Tire & Retreading said, “Several of the guys where I work would like to help with the purchase of a set of tires for the veteran.”

“Wondering if I should look for tires,” Drew Maki, laboratory manager for Carolina Beverage Group in Mooresville, said. “I can be there Thursday to install the starter.”

Joe Warrenfells wrote, “I am currently out of work in the Salisbury area and have the time to help him get where he needs to go. Feel free to give him my cell, if he needs assistance.”

Don Decker offered to pledge $100 toward any fund started for Webb.

Chipper Thomas said he had four good tires, virtually new, on a truck he was getting ready to sell. He offered those tires and said getting them on Webb’s truck would be no problem.

Thomas also offered to fix the starter.

Mildred Phelps in Woodleaf wanted to know what size tires Ward needed because she has some 14-inch tires he could have.

There were many other offers to help, from names you probably would recognize. I apologize for not getting back with everyone, but I hope this serves as a sufficient update and a heartfelt thank-you.

Meanwhile, because I included Webb’s telephone number in the Tuesday column, he also was receiving many calls.

Talking on the telephone is not easy for Webb because he lost his voicebox in the operation for his throat cancer. He speaks with the aid of a device, but it’s sometimes difficult to understand him.

Webb ended up going to a friend’s place to help with the calls and work out details for getting new tires.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I didn’t think anybody would call me. All of a sudden, everybody started calling at one time.”

Dale A. Newark of Salisbury read the story Tuesday morning and immediately wanted to help.

He contacted Brian Swann, senior assistant at Discount Tire, and explained Webb’s situation. He also faxed Swann a copy of the story for background.

“Brian was very cooperative and more than willing to work with me to help Mr. Webb out,” Newark said.

Swann contacted ABC Towing, and driver Breck Orshal picked up Webb’s truck at Melba Court and took it to Discount Tire. Orshal also returned it with the new tires and starter Wednesday afternoon.

“ABC Towing bends over backward for people, if it’s legit and we can do it,” Orshal said.

Webb was wanting to pay Orshal for the towing service, “but I wouldn’t take it,” Orshal said.

“I said, ‘It’s not a problem. This is all taken care of. You served us, so let us serve you.’ ”

Swann had the same attitude. “We figured we needed to help somebody out that needed some real help,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Webb was amazed Wednesday afternoon that Discount Tire did more than provide four new tires. The starter went in and the clutch was adjusted. Swann told me he was not going to send back a truck that wasn’t running well.

Webb said he was hoping to find a ride to Walmart so he could buy some spotlights, working with a motion detector, to aim at his truck at night. He’s a light sleeper, and if those lights come on, he’ll know, Webb said.

When I first talked with Webb Monday, he told me he was alone.

I wrote it down in my notebook: “I don’t have nobody,” he said.

I hope he realizes now just how many people he does have.



Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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